There’s been a lot of talk lately about how football has replaced baseball as America’s sport. Football dominates television ratings as baseball’s pace lumbers in today’s overstimulated society and a younger audience of fans dies off.
In spite of all of the backlash, baseball may have found its saviors.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, aged 20 and 19 respectively, stormed into the league this year and immediately snagged all major national headlines with their historically unprecedented performances.
Not since Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays debuted 60 years ago have a pair of surefire superstars entered the league simultaneously. For casual and hard core baseball fans alike, the emergence of two potential Hall of Famers sets an unprecedented prospect for the future of the sport.
Since being called up by the Washington Nationals in April, Harper has put up a .273/.345/.454 line (average, on-base and slugging), all three marks significantly besting the league averages in each category. Harper’s bat has helped propel an otherwise atrocious Washington offense as the Nationals surged into first place.
But what makes this remarkable is the fact that Harper is doing all of this at age 19. The pace Harper is setting would rank his age-19 season among the greatest of all time, trailing only Tony Conigliaro and Hall of Famer Mel Ott.
As impressive and unusual as Harper’s season has been, Trout of the Los Angeles Angels has been performing like an extraterrestrial sent from Planet Baseball to eliminate all pitchers.
After tearing apart AAA, the Angels called up Trout in April while languishing in last place at 6-14, waiting for Albert Pujols to wake up from a long summer nap. Since then, the Angels have gone 43-26 and stormed right back into playoff contention.
Leading the charge has been Trout.
Trout leads the American League in both batting average (.349) and stolen bases (30). His .401 OBP ranks 3rd in the AL and his .569 SLG ranks 6th. And if you buy into the defensive metric UZR, Trout’s 5.8 runs saved is 4th among AL outfielders.
In other words, Trout has been among the best in the league in every statistical category imaginable. Very few people in baseball history have matched Trout’s output, let alone any 20-year-olds.
Both Harper and Trout were in Kansas City for the All-Star Game last Tuesday. Predictably, all major national media stories focused on the young stars’ ascendancy to the upper echelon of baseball stardom.
These two are exactly what baseball needs.
Maybe football is more exhilarating. And okay, some baseball players have routines outside the batters box that may be a little excessive.
But as long as Harper and Trout keep setting records, no other sport that can claim that they have two young athletes as thrilling to watch as these two future legends. In Harper and Trout, baseball now has two bona fide superstars — potential Hall of Famers — that they can market around for the next twenty years. There is nothing more exciting to a fan of sports than unlimited potential. The possibilities are limitless.
More than any athletes in any sports, these two personify the potential of youth.
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